Your mind is not a storage space, it's a generator.
'I woke up with a clear mind.'
Sally (Sunderland Recovery College)
Whenever I start a new journaling course I share both the research findings about the benefits of journaling, as well as the testimonies of previous course participants. The reaction from the new course members is unanimously one of incredulity, as if something so simple as writing for a few minutes every day could have such a huge impact upon one's wellbeing. The fact that the benefits can be felt almost immediately leads to looks of disbelief, until the next week when they return for the second class full of how their lives have changed overnight. As one course member put it earlier this year 'on the way home from choir practice I experienced an epiphany as I realised that my journaling practice was re-wiring my brain and changing my mind set.'
After just seven days new course member Sally confirmed that she already 'felt in a better place mentally because she could see the positives.' The following week Sally reported that she was now 'waking up with a calm mind without vivid dreams and night terrors.' This feeling is possibly linked to her statement last week that she likes to sum up the day in her journal which leaves her with positive thoughts that 'carry me to sleep.'
The title of this piece, of course, is not strictly true. Our mind is a vast storage space, retaining both happy memories as well as those of sadness and trauma. Difficulties occur when we reach storage capacity and feel overwhelmed. The speed with which journaling can help with your wellbeing is because by writing things down you are creating capacity in your brain to start thinking again, to be creative, to deal with situations and to generate ideas, opportunities and solutions.
Sally's experience confirms this when she comments that on those days when she misses her early morning journaling the day lacks clarity. This realisation leads to ensuring that she journals every morning which helps to serve as the plan for the day, gives it focus with sufficient capacity to deal with the day's challenges. Sally's approach to life has been to do everything in one day, but this leads to overthinking as she tries to juggle all the day's demands to see how she can fit them in, there's no room for her to 'generate' ideas and solutions. By journaling she is able to put things in perspective, plan her day and give it focus, it helps 'remind me that I can't do everything and so I focus on what I can do and this stops me dashing around trying to please everybody.' Sally now recognises that some things can wait until tomorrow and not everything needs to be done today.
It is well documented in the research that journaling helps de-clutter the mind. As Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, stated that 'writing ´every morning before doing anything else helped to clear the clutter from her mind and free her up to pursue her day in the same way as a morning shower clears away sleep from your body and sets you up for the day.' Julia goes on to confirm that through this process she gets her ‘moments of insight, her glimpses into the why behind the what that I am living… they keep my consciousness scrubbed clean’ (p3).
Megan Rutell confided in her blog (https://pageflutter.com/morning-pages/) that she was sceptical about the benefits of journaling in the morning, but after trying it had to admit that it:
Kept my productivity up the rest of the day
Reduced the feeling I was letting something fall through the cracks
Made me feel more positive and capable for the rest of the day
Helped me process worries weighing on my mind
Captured new ideas for stories, blog posts, business strategies, and creative leisure activities
Expressed emotions I hadn’t realized I was feeling
Helped me complain less (at least aloud)
Allowed me to be more forgiving of others
Gave my morning a kickstart
Megan had been inspired by Shelby Abrahamsen's (Little Coffee Fox) 2016 blog about journaling in the morning. Shelby had also been a sceptic but having tried writing in the morning she confides that the practice changed her life and she has been writing continuously for six years now. You can read her blog here What are Morning Pages? How One New Habit Changed My Life - LittleCoffeeFox
In her blog Shelby talks about how the inner critic we have to deal with every day can derail our plans, knock our confidence and convince us that we are not worthy. Just like Sally from Sunderland Recovery College both Megan and Shelby found greater clarity through writing and as many students from the College on the journaling course have confirmed the clarity can come very quickly once you start to write. This clarity has helped Megan, Shelby and Sally focus on their goals, remain on track all day, build their confidence and self-esteem and accomplish their goals and it will help you too once you start to write.
'Write, and the truth will fall out of your pen.'